photokina Roundup (Part 1 of 2): The Disappointments and the Possibilities


The last few days have seen some really significant camera releases. Raj Lalwani dissects the hype and tells you what you really need to know. In the first part of this exhaustive roundup, we look at five contenders that promised quite a bit, but seem to have fallen short somewhere along the way.

Cameras come and cameras go. But exactly a month ago, when the buildup to photokina 2012 had just begun, there were a few releases that almost everyone was curious about. Blame it on the rumour websites, the orchestrated leaks and the natural progressions that everyone expected. Today, on the last day of photokina, we look back at some of the major releases that we were all waiting for. A few disappointed, some held their promise and then, there were the surprise players.

Remember, a camera release may disappoint for several reasons. Maybe it does not do enough over its predecessor, or the market has moved on and the competition is doing more exciting things.

Nokia Lumia 920

It is a fantastic phone and after the iPhone 5’s underwhelming response has made the Lumia 920 a strong contender for the ‘cell phone you must buy’ tag. But despite being branded as a PureView cell phone, it does not match the abilities of the original PureView, the 808. The stabilisation technology and video quality have been beefed up, but the sensor is nowhere near as big as the one found in the Nokia 808 PureView.

That’s a pity really. The 808 runs on the rather outdated Symbian OS and we were pretty excited when Nokia had made a statement that the same technology will be a part of Windows phones too. They are calling it PureView, sure, but with a smaller sensor and more modest resolution, the phone is not capable of the low light and zooming tricks that the 808 can do.

Canon PowerShot S110
The PowerShot S90 and S95 were revolutionary. Excellent compact camera sensors and fast lenses in a pocketable package that was tuned perfectly for the pro on the go. The S100 was where things started falling apart… it was still a very good camera, but the ergonomics were compromised and the lens was slower.

The S110 is the real disappointment. The same lens, the same processor, the same sensor… and this is 2012. Sure, a touchscreen interface and WiFi connectivity sound great, but for the target audience of this set of cameras, such features are simply the icing, not the cake itself. Also, along the way, Sony released the incredible RX100, which packs in a faster lens and much bigger/better sensor in an identically sized body. Maybe noone at Canon noticed that camera.

Olympus XZ-2
Olympus missed the same memo as Canon. With a new grip and a tilting high-resolution LCD, the XZ-2 sounds like a very good update of the XZ-1. But then again, in a market that has been redefined by the RX100, nobody is interested in a larger camera that has a smaller sensor. Oh, and what’s with the pricing? USD 599, which is virtually the same price as the RX100?

Sony Alpha 99
The on-sensor phase-detect AF is the big draw of the Alpha 99 and we expect the camera to be popular amongst videographers… fantastic 1080p60 video with continuous AF while shooting, and now with a full frame sensor and thus, even greater depth control and low light possibilities.

For those who do not bother much with video, the D600 promises to be a far more exciting camera… it has a similar frame rate and sensor, and a much lower price tag.

New PEN Cameras from Olympus

The new PENs are an evolution rather than a revolution. Since they use the new sensor from the OM-D E-M5, one can expect far better image quality. But if you are the kind of user who is not going to use anything besides the kit lens, do the new PEN cameras do enough to lure you away from the pocketable RX100? I doubt it. The RX100 has extracted so much from its smaller sensor that it does match the image quality of Micro Four Thirds. So I consider the new PENs as good buys only for those who want to use some of the proprietary features that Olympus has (Art Filters) or those who wish to utilise the wealth of the Micro Four Thirds lens lineup.

Interestingly, there has been no E-P3 update. In fact, one can say that the E-PL5 takes the best out of the E-PL3 and the E-P3 to merge those two lines into one camera. This is a good decision… the E-P3, E-PL3 and E-PM1 were way too similar anyway. It also opens up the possibility of another camera just below the OM-D E-M5… slightly more expensive than the E-P3 but with an inbuilt viewfinder, an answer to the Sony NEX-6, perhaps.